We’ve spent most of the past week complaining about the heat, but before long we’ll be saving our choice words for cooler weather. It’s time to preserve some of summer’s sweetness, a welcome remembrance come winter. Kevin West knows something about putting up produce. His newly published book, Saving the Season, is full of knowledgeable tips, enjoyable anecdotes and of course superb recipes for bottling farmers’ market bounty.
A true Southern gent, Kevin shared a recipe from his book for chutney, and also talked to us a bit about the condiment’s background and tastiest pairings.
Chutney came into the Ango-American food tradition from India, where British colonialists learned about a local sour-spicy condiment called “chatni.” Chatni was made by grinding together spices, chilies, garlic, tamarind, limes, and sometimes–but just sometimes–fruit. “Chatni” in other words was close to what we would today call a fresh salsa. The British, with their great preserving tradition to call on, adapted chatni into a sweet preserve that sort of resembles a jam, except for being highly spiced, flavored with alliums, and tarted up with vinegar. The British accorded first place to mango chutney, and today Major Grey Mango Chutney is as British as Heinz 57 is American.
British chutney eventually made its way across the Atlantic to the American south, where mangos were exotic but peaches were commonplace, and thus on these shores the mango was replaced by peach. I grew up eating peach chutney, and my recipe is inspired by my childhood memories. My peach chutney is a decorous, Southern-style chutney — not one to offend delicate sensibilities. Incidentally, I also make a mango chutney, which is high spiced and soured with the traditional tamarind paste instead of vinegar. A Southern belle might find it alarming.
Chutney can be made with any of the stone fruit (cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots) — and I know people make fig chutney, which sounds good to me but I haven’t done it. Green tomato chutney is also a favorite of mine — I put it on many things from pinto beans and cornbread to a cold meatloaf sandwich.
Use chutney the way you might use other sweet-sour condiments (hint: ketchup is a type of sweet-sour condiment). It naturally goes will with strong flavors such as tandoori meats (or perhaps BBQ meats) — but it also goes well with bland foods such as rice pilaf. As a final tip: chutney plays nice with almost any kind of sandwich built from leftover meats, from cold roast pork to sliced turkey breast. — KW
The following is excerpted from Saving the Season by Kevin West. Copyright (c) 2013 by Kevin West. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
CHUTNEY | Yields 4 pints
When you’re making preserves, fully 50 percent of your success is in the shopping—good fruit makes good jam. Technique matters also, and a sound recipe makes a difference. But the crucial remaining factor is organization. Especially when dealing with a large quantity of perishable fruits or vegetables, you have to think through your strategy and plot out your work. If you can’t get everything put up immediately, you have to take into account how the produce will ripen—and soon fade—as it waits for you. My strategy for how to use a bushel of peaches would look something like this:
First day/underripe fruit: Pectin levels peak just before ripening, so I’d start with peach jelly, using the same technique as for Apricot Jelly on page 184. If you don’t want to make jelly, give the peaches another day to ripen.
First day/just- ripe fruit: Peaches that are fragrant and slightly yielding but still firm enough to handle are ideal for canning in syrup, as either halves or slices in syrup.
Second day/fully ripe fruit: As the peaches become tender and fragrant, make jam.
Third day/dead- ripe fruit: By now, the peaches will likely have a few brown spots that will need to be cut away, so I’d work up a batch of chutney, which requires long, slow cooking that breaks down the fruit anyway.
Fourth day/tired fruit: Whatever peaches haven’t been used by now will likely look a little sad, but even really soft, spotty ones can be trimmed for a batch of Spiced Peach Butter (page 239). southern peach chutney evolved from an Indian relish called chatni that British colonials brought home during the days when the sun never set on the Empire. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, chatni is made fresh before a meal by grinding spices and adding them to a paste of tamarind, garlic, and limes or coconut. Pieces of fruit or vegetable may be incorporated, but the chief flavor characteristic is sour. The British turned that into a fruit preserve, explains the Oxford Companion: British chutneys are usually spiced, sweet, fruit pickles, having something of the consistency of jam. Highest esteem is accorded to mango chutney. . . .Chutney later spread across the Atlantic to the West Indies and the American South, where the esteemed mango was replaced by the honorable peach.
- 5 pounds yellow peaches or nectarines, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 3 cups organic or turbinado sugar
- 2 cups apple-cider vinegar
- ¾ cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
- 1 sweet banana pepper or ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
- 2 or 3 fresh green jalapeños, diced, or adjust to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated turmeric, or ½ teaspoon ground
- 4 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (a ground spice mixture containing pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cumin, and star anise)
- 2 teaspoons Darjeeling tea (or 4 tea bags)
- Combine all the ingredients in a deep pot, and bring to a boil.
- Moderate the heat, and reduce for as long as an hour, until all the excess liquid boils away and what remains is thick and jamlike in texture.
- Be sure to taste the chutney at several points, and adjust the seasonings to your preference.
- Chutney should be deeply flavored and complex, with at least a bit of spicy heat. If you like the bright taste of green chilies, add more minced jalapeños during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Ladle the hot chutney into four prepared pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
- Seal, and process in a boiling- water bath for 10 minutes.
- Allow to cure for a month before eating.
Thanks, Kevin, and have fun on your book tour!